THE BLOG
06/30/2016 12:19 pm ET Updated Jul 01, 2017

Facebook Bravery And False Participation In The World

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The baby boomer generation has witnessed technological advancements and changes as never seen in humanity's history. We have been given many wonderful gifts that altered our world dramatically. My age (over 60) allowed me to witness powerful and unfathomable advancements in personal electronic technology.
The 1964 New York World's Fair provided a showcase for the future. They spoke of and even demonstrated powerful computers they claimed would one day run everything. I remember the "amazing" portable transistor radio I got for Christmas as a boy. It measured about 4″ x 3″ with a 2′ telescoping antenna stored in the radio. Because of the little 9V battery power source and that magical antenna, I was never far from the Four Seasons, the Box Tops, and the Temptations. Little did I know that the tiny radio was just the tip of the proverbial electronic iceberg.
The pace of changes in the electronic world is still both amazing and in some ways frightening. As promised, computers began to take over. As the computer assault continued to change our world, we were introduced to a crazy thing we know as the Internet. As with any changes in technology, you often have to take some bad with the good. The splitting of the atom is a great example. Otto Hahn's discovery of nuclear fission in 1938 unleashed a source of power that provided electricity for much of the world, but the same discovery eradicated hundreds of thousands of lives when used to develop the nuclear bomb.
The Internet is one development in the world of electronic communication that has brought a down side with it. It doesn't compare to the devastating nature of an atomic bomb, but it has significantly changed, and as far as I am concerned, done much damage to personal interactions and relationships. Facebook, Twitter, texting, and similar methods of interaction have created a faceless world filled with anonymous opportunities to respond to the world around us. I must admit that I love seeing pictures of friends and grandkids as well as hearing from friends and family through the electronic world, but there is a dark side.
Unfortunately, among the pretty pictures of flowers, families, vacations, proms, graduations, and yes, those cute little cats or puppies, is a vast sea of people using these venues to complain about the world, vent anger, spread hate, and to spread political propaganda. You would think that these many additional opportunities to interact would bring our world closer together. Because of questionable uses of Internet-related interactions and addiction to portable phones, these so-called advancements have created, in many ways, a more divided and less interactive society.
As I watch people sit together with their heads down and their focus on their phones, I can't help thinking this technology is driving us apart. As I witness Facebook "friends" angrily respond to comments about society, I feel we are driven apart. As I see hate speech spouted and shared about politicians, I feel we are driven apart. As I see false claims traversing the networks to defeat an issue or person, I feel we are driven apart.
I needed to visit this subject because I watched as a few friends became frustrated by what was happening on Facebook. They said they were signing off for a while because they needed a break from the anger and ugliness. The anonymous and instantaneous nature of push button communication can create a false sense of bravery. We can Facebook, text, and Tweet instead of talking.
Protected behind this electronic barrier, we sometimes quickly respond, instead of thinking about an issue. We touch a button, instead of touching base. We complain, instead of creating or changing. We protest, instead of participating. We tear down, instead of trying to build. We often unintentionally hurt others because we don't have to look someone in the eyes or hear the emotion in their voice.
We have also reached a point where electronic complaining and interaction is how many define community participation. I have observed some very angry people use the Internet to tear down anything and everything without ever trying to make a difference by trying to improve or change what bothers them. Many people let their angry rants substitute for participating in the world. Unfortunately, angry rants rarely change a thing. Compassionate complaining is not enough. It must be combined with a passion to make a difference that drives you to action.
So, before you hit "send" with an anger-filled response, before you share political propaganda that lacks truth, and before you electronically complain about something, ask yourself, "What action will I take relative to this issue to make a difference and leave the world better than I found it?" And while you are at it, why not actually phone a friend, share your actual voice, and find out how he or she is doing?